UMASS Recognizes Growing Interdisciplinary Study of Black Germans in Academia

Doctoral student Kevina King (far left) on a panel this weekend with Jemele Watkins (far right) at the third Black German Heritage & Research Association International Conference held at Amherst College.

Doctoral student Kevina King (far left) on a panel this weekend with Jemele Watkins (far right) at the third Black German Heritage & Research Association International Conference held at Amherst College.

AMHERST, Mass.—In an effort to recognize a relatively young academic discipline that many in the academy have never heard of before, nearly a hundred students and scholars gathered at Amherst College over the weekend to discuss their research and ideas for how to grow Black German Studies.

This marks the third year that the Black German Heritage & Research Association sponsored the international conference, which highlighted a variety of interdisciplinary topics ranging from Black Germans during the Third Reich to their ongoing presence in German theater.

Like African American, Women and Queer studies, Black German Studies has an admitted social justice focus, says Dr. Sara Lennox, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an early founder of the Black German Studies movement in the U.S. “We’ve made the field legitimate. You can now do this work and get tenure,” says Lennox, who was chiefly responsible for jumpstarting the Black German Studies concentration at UMASS Amherst. “It’s kind of a burgeoning field and movement. The other thing that’s really cool is there is a pretty strong connection between activism and scholarship and a really strong connection with the experimental … Black Germans talking about their stories.”

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EDITOR WHO GREW UP BLACK IN NAZI GERMANY DIES

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Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi, Sr.

MIAMI (AP) — Hans Massaquoi, a former managing editor of Ebony magazine who wrote a distinctive memoir about his unusual childhood growing up black in Nazi Germany, has died. He was 87. His son said Massaquoi died Saturday, on his 87th birthday, in Jacksonville. He had been hospitalized over the Christmas holidays. “He had quite a journey in life,” said Hans J. Massaquoi, Jr., of Detroit. “Many have read his books and know what he endured. But most don’t know that he was a good, kind, loving, fun-loving, fair, honest, generous, hard-working and open-minded man. He respected others and commanded respect himself. He was dignified and trustworthy

. We will miss him forever and try to live by his example.” In an interview in 2000, the elder Massaquoi told The Associated Press that he credited the late Alex Haley, author of “Roots,” with convincing him to share his experience of being “both an insider in Nazi Germany and, paradoxically, an endangered outsider.” His autobiography, “Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany,” was published in the U.S. in 1999 and a German translation was also published. Massaquoi’s mother was a German nurse and his father was the son of a Liberian diplomat. He grew up in working class neighborhoods of the port city of Hamburg.

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Toxi: Film Now Available for Purchase

Synopsis:

Toxi

A five-year-old girl suddenly appears on the doorstep of a well-to-do Hamburg family. The members of the multi-generational, white household react differently to the arrival of Toxi, who is black, the daughter of an African-American G.I. and a white German woman who has died. Eventually Toxi works her way into the hearts of this German family, but then her father returns, hoping to take Toxi back to America with him.

At the time of the film’s release in 1952, there were between 3,000 and 5,000 children of Allied paternity born since WWII living in West Germany. Toxi was the first feature-length film to explore the subject of “black occupation children” in postwar Germany and premiered when the first generation of these children began entering German schools, creating a public awareness of this situation. Robert A. Stemmle, one of the most popular West German directors and known for his unique blend of social realism and melodrama, brought together an exceptionally renowned set of classic German actors with diverse experiences of the Nazi era, including Paul Bildt, Johanna Hofer and Elisabeth Flickenschildt.

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